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nov 11 news

Results From The AOLCP Survey
By Frank Crandall NOFA Education Committee Chairman

survery clip artEarly analysis of the AOLCP Business Survey shows some interesting results. Most of the respondents have sales under $250,000, have fewer than 5 employees, and have been in business under 10 years. Of interest is the fact that 37% are having similar sales in 2011 as in 2010, however, over 50% are doing better than last year...a very positive sign for our AOLCP's! All continue to face economic challenges; 60% indicated customer cutbacks of services and projects number one followed by low consumer confidence and labor challenges.

When asked what would be helpful to improve their business in 2012 50% answered marketing help in attracting the right clientele, 35% assistance with attracting and hiring employees, and 35% providing more training for their employees in organic techniques.

How can OLC help? 77% responded more publicity for organic land care, 49% need more publicity for their business and 35% want advanced workshops for businesses. The results are encouraging that businesses are improving but indicate the continuing effect of our economic woes and the need for publicity, marketing and business help for our AOLCP's.

If you haven't yet completed the survey, there is still time for you to share your experience with NOFA OLC! The results will inform our Business Panel at the Annual Gathering on December 6th. Click on this link to respond to our quick survey. The survey can be completely anonymously, but please write your e-mail in the space provided if you wish to be entered in a drawing for a $50 credit toward your reaccreditation fee.



2012 NOFA Course in Organic Land Care

We've created a sample email and Facebook post that you could use to get you started:

Email:

Dear _________ ,
As you may already know, I'm a NOFA Accreditated Organic Land Care Professional (AOLCP). I have found it really valuable to be a part of the NOFA AOLCP network.
I thought you might be interested in the program. Registraton just opened for the Accreditation Course in Organic Land Care, which is NOFA's annual 5-day course for environmental professionals, land care professionals and advanced gardeners. It's an intensive course covering all aspects of designing and maintaining landscapes that protect and support healthy ecosystems. Those who decide to become Accredited at the end of the course are listed in NOFA's online searchable database and in their annual print Guide to Organic Land Care. More experienced AOLCPs can get speaking and teaching opportunities through the program. It's a a great service. Check it out at www.organiclandcare.net and at http://www.nofamass.org/programs/landcare/.



Facebook:

We are (business page) / I am (personal page) a NOFA Accredited Organic Land Care Professional. You can be, too! Registration is open for the Accreditation Courses in MA, CT and RI. The 5-day intensive course trains land care professionals and advanced gardeners to design and maintain healthy, ecologically-sound landscapes. Get in touch with me if you want to know more about my experience in the course. These are the links for the courses www.organiclandcare.net for CT and RI, or http://www.nofamass.org/programs/landcare/ for MA.

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Out and About with AOLCPs -

Chair of OLC Education Committee Frank Crandall Comes Full Circle

BY KATHY LITCHFIELD

Frank Crandall 2

RHODE ISLAND - For 38 years, Frank H. Crandall III ran Wood River Evergreens based in Hope Valley, a successful company that won 24 landscape awards and at its peak grossed in excess of $3 million annually with 30 employees.

Crandall had begun landscaping in high school, worked through college at the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, and founded a lawn mowing company in Weekapaug in 1972. Gradually, he expanded the business to include mowing, maintenance, construction and design services. By the mid-90s Wood River Evergreens had expanded to include masonry, carpentry, landscape lighting, nursery and educational services.

Crandall had always tried to minimize chemicals in his landscape operations - inspired by his grandfather, Westerly, R.I. farmer Frank Crandall Sr.'s careful approach to land care principles - and made a commitment in the early '90s not to use any restricted pesticides. By 2005, he was using only bio-rational choices (horticultural oil, insecticidal soaps, Bt and other organically approved chemicals.

In January of 2005, Crandall earned his NOFA accreditation in Wellesley, Mass. and still maintains that the NOFA course "is the best educational course I have ever taken."

"I immediately made a plan to convert my landscape business into a completely organic company over three years, including on-site compost production, extracting compost tea, using only chemicals, materials and methods allowed in the NOFA Standards, further implement recycling at my business site, purchase a hybrid pickup, and over the long term, incorporate solar and wind power, biodiesel and additional hybrid vehicles in my fleet," he said, aiming to have his business and farm serve as a model for successful organically based businesses.

"Although I made progress in the conversion, it was not easy or smooth," he said. "Personnel issues, difficulty in producing quality tea, reluctance of some of our long-term clients to embrace organics and the substantial costs to convert ultimately slowed the process."

Then came the summer of 2010, when Crandall experienced "a perfect storm" of financial setbacks -- $100,000 of severe flood damage to his properties, no finalized projects from July-September, the exhaustion of his personal and company savings, a high debt load, and falling property values.

"This left me no choice but to close my 38 year old business, on Oct. 1, 2010. This was an extremely emotional and difficult step to take and experience, but I soon began to realize that businesses go through cycles, WRE had a wonderful run, and we left landscapes in Southern RI and Southeast CT in better shape than when we had started in 1972," he said.

Today, Crandall sees himself as having come full circle, working by himself again (with the occasional helper) as Frank Crandall, Horticultural Services, assisting landscape clients in Southern RI with design, plantings, maintenance and specialty pruning.

He also is a guest lecturer in horticultural courses at URI, the Landscape Institute in Boston, Mass., and North Shore Community College in Danvers. He conducts annual horticultural business seminars called GEM (Growth, Effectiveness, Management - the next seminar is Jan. Jan. 18-19, 2012 at the Kettle Pond Visitor's Center, Charlestown, RI), teaches in the NOFA 5-day courses (since 2006), writes books and chairs the OLC Education Committee, which works to maintain the high standards of NOFA OLC courses.
Crandall has published two books: "Lessons from the Landscape" in 2005 and "The Essential Horticultural Business Handbook," in 2011, the latter of which has become a textbook at North Shore Community College.

A compilation of his experience operating an award-winning landscape firm, in his second book Crandall shares advice, techniques, forms and recommendations which will assist in starting up a small business or help your existing business grow and prosper, he said.

"I want to make a difference using methods and choices that would improve the environment, create healthy landscapes for children, pets and applicators working in clients' yards," he said. "I realize that 'organics' is not a fad ... it is here to stay. I feel a personal responsibility to not only apply organic principles but to promulgate the Organic Land Care mission through teaching, assisting in running the NOFA 5-day course, serving on NOFA committees and writing articles and books."

Crandall believes the universe had guided him in the direction he now finds himself and he is embracing the opportunity to share the many lessons he has learned with fellow horticulturists.

"I am transitioning from running a major landscape business ... to working in a small but busy landscape business with a select few, wonderful, clients. Scheduling all my activities is still challenging, but nothing like running my previous company," he smiled. "I want to keep my business small, low overhead and complete only projects I can handle. I do schedule time each week for Tai Chi, yoga/meditation, bike riding, health club ... and a couple of beers on Friday night! It is very important for me to have time to spend with my family, especially my three grandchildren!"

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